Large herbivores are key to reduce fire hazard

Large herbivores are key to reduce fire hazard

Repopulating certain environments with large wild herbivorous animals can help reduce the impact of fires in a world more vulnerable to climate change, according to a study released today.

"We have seen an increase in the impact of fires in several parts of the world, the main reason being climate change, but the evidence also shows that the loss of wild herbivores is very important," said Christopher Johnson, an expert at the Australian University of Tasmania (UT)

The research carried out by the UT and the Royal Society of London, with contributions from researchers from other parts of the world, defends the practices of repopulating natural habitats with herbivores.

"Returning the animals that are responsible for stabilizing ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity helps animals do the work of repairing ecological processes, especially in ecosystems previously degraded by the extinction of the species," said Johnson, co-author of the study, in a statement of the UT.

The study published by the Royal Society recalls that fire seasons are becoming increasingly extreme in places like California (USA) or the Mediterranean, where large herbivores that contributed to a large reduction have disappeared of plants.

This disappearance has contributed to the accumulation of more combustible material that causes fires, according to the statement from the University of Tasmania.

"It is clear that areas grazed by large animals such as kangaroos or even deer in Tasmania can be as effective as firebreaks," said the expert.

"The reintroduction of wild animals potentially offers a powerful tool for managing fire risks and their impacts on natural and human values," he added.

However, grazing animals are not always effective, such is the case of livestock that increase the chances of fires in the Australian Alps, "possibly by changing the fuel assemblies in favor of flammable woody shrubs that can invade the prairies", indicates the study.


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